Georgetown University has identified four finalists in its search for a full-time Title IX coordinator, according to Grace Perret (COL ’20), a member of the student panel reviewing applicants and Georgetown University Student Association’s sexual assault and student safety Policy chair.
The university has not had a full-time Title IX coordinator since Laura Cutway vacated her position unexpectedly in June 2018. Title IX Investigator Samantha Berner has been serving as both her own role and that of a Title IX coordinator in the midst of the search for Cutway’s replacement.
Finalists under consideration to replace Cutway as Georgetown’s Title IX coordinator are meeting with campus partners and students leaders engaged in advocacy against sexual assault, according to Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity Rosemary Kilkenny.
“Georgetown has made significant progress in its national search for a full-time Title IX Coordinator and remains committed to hiring the most qualified individual to serve our students and campus community,” Kilkenny wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Those selected to meet with and interview the candidates for the position include the Women’s Center, Health and Education Services, the LGBTQ Center and Georgetown University Police Department’s Sexual Assault Response Team, among others, according to a university spokesperson.
The university spokesperson declined to comment on the remaining number of candidates, citing a concern for the confidentiality for the candidates.
The university had at one point selected two candidates to advance beyond interviews but has identified two more candidates it is in the process of evaluating, according to Perret and Kory Stuer (COL ‘19), who also serves on the student panel reviewing applicants for the position and is a member of Students Taking Action Against Interpersonal Violence.
Though the university is making progress in its search, it still may not hire a Title IX Coordinator by the end of this semester, despite the protests of students, Stuer said in an interview with The Hoya.
Though the university has included student voices in the search process, participating students report feeling disconnected from the overall process. The university does not provide students with many specific details about the process, according to both Stuer and Perret.
“They basically just cold email us with a date, time, and candidate, and expect us to be there and review them, but not much else,” Perret wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The full-time position remains vacant as the university prepares to release its second campus climate survey Feb 1. Georgetown and 27 other universities conducted a first campus climate survey in 2016 to gather information on incidents of sexual assault on their campuses as well as their frequency. The survey found that nearly one-third of female undergraduate and 10 percent of male undergraduates experienced sexual assault at Georgetown.
Georgetown also formulated its comments to proposed changes Title IX regulations while Cutway’s position remains unfilled. These proposed changes include changing the definition of the sexual harassment and introducing cross examination of the accused students and accusers in Title IX hearings.
Conjoining the positions of Title IX coordinator and investigator, as well as the sustained absence of a full-time coordinator, has provoked criticism among student groups. The university needs a full-time coordinator to make a complete commitment to supporting survivors of sexual assault, Stuer said.
“A full-time Title IX Coordinator is important because there is enough to be done that someone needs to be focusing on those job responsibilities, and not also splitting their time with another role,” Stuer said.
However, identifying, interviewing and hiring qualified candidates for positions of leadership at elite institutions of higher education can take as long as a one year, according to a university spokesperson.
Other Washington, D.C. universities have encountered varying difficulty in filling roles related to Title IX. The Title IX Office at The George Washington University has experienced a high rate of turnover, while American University filled a vacant coordinator position within two months.
Recruiting high-quality candidates requires extensive research and effort, but Georgetown should have been able to conclude its search earlier in the year, Stuer said.
“A national search does take time, and they want to make sure they’re getting the best, and I completely understand that,” Stuer said. “But, if it were a priority, I’m sure they would have done it by now.”
Universities are not federally required to have two separate positions of Title IX coordinator and investigator. Nationally, roughly 40 percent of private four-year universities have full-time Title IX coordinators, and 18 percent of coordinators also serve as the investigator. Methods of investigations vary widely among universities. While coordinators are responsible for resolving the complaint 37 percent of the time, investigators are responsible seven percent of the time.
Georgetown should not simply strive to meet legal requirements, but instead seek to provide for the needs of its students, which includes hiring a full-time Title IX coordinator, Stuer said.
“Just because federal law does not require a full-time Title IX coordinator doesn’t mean it’s not best practice, doesn’t mean that’s not what our community needs. It absolutely is what our community needs, but unfortunately it seems we’re going to have gone this full academic year without it.”